Years ago, my family and I moved to Hahn, West Germany - where my dad was stationed in the Air Force. We arrived five days after school started, so I remember how intimidating it was when I walked into Mrs. Nelson's classroom for the first time. I remember everybody staring at me, and I even remember a hurtful comment that Jessica made. It took a while to feel settled in, and it took some people to help me feel that way.
Now, I get the privilege of leading Connection Track each month, where we welcome in people like that who are new to HighPoint Church. We have a great group of staff and volunteers there to help people feel at home. To do this, we walk them back to the room, give them a gift, provide them with a meal, and then introduce ourselves and the church to them. Hopefully, this encourages them to call HighPoint Church home and find either a group to join or a place to serve.
I wonder if the Apostle Paul felt the same way when he tried to join the disciples, who were "all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple". If you think their response was harsh, you'll have to forgive them - there was a time where he tried to kill them! How would you like it if somebody like that came to your church?!? What happened next set the tone for what should always happen when someone wants to be a part of God's work.
"But Barnabas took him and brought him to the Apostles. He told them how Saul (Paul) on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord." (Acts 9:27-28)
When we think about the people that are coming and will later come to HighPoint Church, I think it's important that we follow Barnabas' example. He cared more about the person in front of him than he did about what that person might do to him (or for him). He may have been afraid, but he didn't let that stop him from reaching out to Saul and encouraging others to embrace him. He didn't worry what others would think about who he was associating with. He only knew that Jesus appeared before Saul and that Saul was different because of that. He knew God was in this, and he was looking at who Saul would become now that he was living for the Lord. Isn't that what we should all want to happen here as well?!?
As you pray for our church and for people this week, be praying for the "Sauls" that will walk in the door. They bring a reputation with them, but once they meet Jesus it doesn't who they used to be. We need to focus on who they are becoming in Christ. We also need to pray for the Barnabases who are here to welcome them. Pray that we will have the attitude and mind of Christ, and that we will welcome them with open arms...because that's the way Jesus welcomed us!